“Our members, regardless of what they might think of the merits, simply believe that this is an exercise that is really not constitutionally based and, from a practical standpoint, has just nonsense, ”Thune said.
But reviews – including academics from the Conservative Federalist Society and other right-wing organizations – argue the argument has a shaky legal foundation. In addition, federal courts have consistently referred to the “sole power” of Congress to set its own rules and procedures, including impeachment proceedings.
Yet the Republicans’ assertion is becoming a central theme of the ex-president’s defense strategy in the Senate. upcoming test, with several GOP senators publicly echoing it in recent days even as they signaled increased hostility towards Trump over the attack on Capitol Hill.
“I think the key point is, is it constitutional to do this when someone is out of the office – and then is it purely retribution when trying to get things done,” said Senator Mike Braun. (R-Ind.). “[That’s] not to dismiss the enormity of the day itself.
“I think this is one of the most powerful arguments [for Trump], absolutely, ”added Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), a Trump ally who has been pushing for a vote on dismissing the trial at its start.
Indeed, the Senate never tried a former president for impeachment, although in 1876 the Senate tried former Secretary of War William Belknap after his resignation. Supporters of the Senate’s power to try a former public servant pointed to the Belknap trial to point out that a president or anyone facing impeachment could simply resign or leave office to escape punishment.
“If an official could only be disqualified while he or she was still in office, then an official who betrayed the public trust and was dismissed might avoid accountability simply by resigning a minute before the condemnation vote. Senate final “, a bipartisan group of legal scholars, including prominent conservatives, wrote Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Have yet to iron out a framework, which will outline the rules and procedures for the trial. McConnell Thursday too offers delay the start of the trial by two weeks to allow Trump to prepare his defense strategy, although it is not known whether Schumer will agree.
The framework will spell out whether to allow a motion to dismiss the trial early on – a vote that could signal the likelihood of the Senate condemning Trump. Seventeen Republicans would have to join all Democrats for Trump to be convicted. Some senators have said they plan to support such a motion, if proposed, as a way to voice their objections to the trial of a former president.
“I don’t think that once a person leaves office, that indictment is possible. I think it’s a moot question at this point, ”said Sen. Mike Rounds (RS.D.). “Constitutionally, it is not the right thing to do.”
In this case, as Republicans note, there is no office from which to impeach Trump, although convicting him could result in other sanctions such as barring him from running for federal office in the future.
“Let the voters decide whether they want President Trump to run again,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “I don’t see anything in the Constitution that allows you to remove a president after he has already left office.
Johnson said he would vote “definitely” to dismiss the lawsuit, adding that the House article of impeachment “shouldn’t even be sent here.” The transmission of the article from the House to the Senate triggers the start of the trial.
But the Democrats, who now control the Senate, intend to hold a trial, even as President Nancy Pelosi has yet to officially pass the impeachment article across the Capitol. Schumer said so after the House impeached Trump last week, although Democrats have yet to decide on the length of the trial, which will depend on whether or not to call witnesses as part of the proceedings.
Key lawmakers on both sides, however, expect a relatively short trial. Trump’s first impeachment trial lasted three weeks, but it was only after a weeks-long impeachment inquiry in the House that produced hundreds of pages of evidence and legal argument. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), The House’s lead impeachment official, said on Thursday the upcoming trial would not last as long as the previous one.
This is in part because, this time around, the House did not conduct a formal investigation and several senators said that calling witnesses was not necessary because lawmakers were all witnesses from the Capitol seat and because that Trump’s actions and statements were fully exposed to the public.
“It’s not like we need a lot of information on the merits of the case,” Braun said. “We were here.”
“I guess the public record is your TV screen,” Graham joked. “I don’t see why it would take a long time.”
Aside from the constitutional arguments, Republicans wonder why Democrats want to bring Trump to justice while President Joe Biden emphasizes unity and bipartisanship, noting that an impeachment trial is one of the biggest undertakings. controversies on Capitol Hill.
“I also don’t know why it helps the Dems. I know there is a great deal of antipathy towards the former president. But they have new life, ”Thune said. “They have the White House, they have the majority in the Senate. They have a lot to do. They want to rehash the past four years, and that doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Republicans urged Biden to intervene to halt or prevent the Senate trial on the grounds that it would delay consideration of Biden’s cabinet candidates as well as his legislative agenda, which includes another round of Covid-19 relief.
“It will be incredibly divisive for the country if we go through this,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “We are in the midst of this massive pandemic. We have all these appointments that we have to make. We have all these threats in the world that we need to focus on. There is a lot to do. The idea that we’re going to spend a week or two on a trial run on someone who isn’t even in office – sounds like a waste of time to me.
Pelosi repulsed against that claim earlier Thursday, bluntly saying, “The President of the United States has committed an act of incitement to insurgency. I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, oh, let’s just forget that and move on. This is not how you unite.
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.